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Singapore Grip (Empire Trilogy #3)

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  683 ratings  ·  110 reviews
The Blackett family's prosperous world of tennis parties, cocktails and deferential servants seems unchanging. But it is poised on the edge of the abyss. This is the eve of the Fall of Singapore, and of much else besides.
Hardcover, 558 pages
Published September 14th 1978 by Littlehampton Book Services Ltd (first published 1978)
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Farrell, J. G. THE SINGAPORE GRIP. (1973). *****. This was the third and last of Farrell’s trilogy of novels that dealt with the English colonial systems. The first, “Troubles,” tells of the conditions existing between England and Ireland right after WW I. The second, “The Siege of Krishnapore,” a Booker Prize-winner, is set in India in Farrell’s fictional town ruled by the troops of the East India Company; the time was 1857. This novel is set in Singapore during the start of WW II, and lays out ...more
Molly Ison
This is a good book on its own, but a mediocre book when compared with Troubles and The Siege of Krishnapur, J.G. Farrell's previous books about the end of the British Empire.

Another review described The Singapore Grip as more heavy-handed than the previous novels and I would agree. It was hard to really get a handle on the story because instead of characters, there were ideologies with names, all trying to get in a soliloquy about their own stances before the next one could take over the conve
The decline of the British Empire, compressed into the fall of Singapore. From the title -- which, by the way, never quite is pinned down -- to the "Schrodinger's Cat" ending, Farrell draws romance, commerce, political theory, and an accurate retelling of military blundering. An Edwardian springs-running-down like Evelyn Waugh, but better written. All played with astonishing wit. A one quote summary?

"I read somewhere that the boatman who rowed King William back across the river after the Battle
Megan Baxter
Warning: some of the characters in this book are immensely irritating! This doesn't make it a bad book, but it did make me want to strangle Walter at regular intervals. And he's fictional. That's an accomplishment.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.

In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook
Elizabeth (Alaska)
Based on my reading of the first two books in Farrell's Empire Trilogy, I expected this to be the conflict of the British and a native population. Farrell did give us a sort of outline of strikes and unrest beginning in about 1937. It wasn't really until the Japanese invasion of the Malay peninsula had begun that we learned the extent of the British thumb on things.

I come almost entirely of English and Scottish ancestry going back several centuries. We were middle class - farmers and teachers fo
Grace Tjan
The Siege of Krishnapur succeeds because Farrell let his colonial characters expose their own tragicomic ridiculousness with minimal intervention. Here, in the last novel of his Empire Trilogy, he was much more heavy-handed, resulting in several main characters that are outright caricatures. Walter Blackett, the head of the eponymous British trading firm that grew fat on the pre-war Malayan rubber boom, is the Evil Capitalist-Imperialist-Racist who bumbles through his public and private lives wi ...more
James Murphy
The Singapore Grip is the 3d volume of Farrell's Empire Trilogy. Following the gradual destruction of Krishnapur during the 1st volume's depiction of the Sepoy Mutiny and the collapse of an Irish manor house in Troubles, this 3d volume is about the 1941 Japanese invasion of Malaysia and the disintegration of Singapore and British society there. The end of empire, which seems to be Farrell's big theme. The Singapore Grip is my favorite of the 3 novels. I believe it to be the most stylized novel o ...more
A combination of 'The Great Gatsby' and 'Catch-22'. Has everything: memorable characters, action, romance, social commentary, philosophy, and a sprawling historical saga. Absolutely one of the most hilarious reads ever. Wonderfully polished, garrulous, insightful, confiding-in-the-reader-style book; a wry, tongue-in-cheek peek into the lives of quaint, lost, forgotten Britishers and their colonial ways during the height of the Empire. Amusing, exotic, lively. A must for all anglophiles. Farrell' ...more
Seth Reeves
Good but not as good as the previous two books in this trilogy on different instances of the British empire interacting poorly with the people they ruled over outside of their own island. The characters were more one-sided and the story had a far more cynical bent than 'Siege of Krishnapur' or 'Troubles.' The characters are divided into two camps, good guys and bad guys, and this was not as interesting to read about as it would have been to balance the characters' personalities a bit more.

I did
One very well written book on the last days of Singapore before the Japanese occupation, humorous, and tense, Farrell nails down the times, the economics, the culture, and the city with plenty of characters fictional and historical.
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Just a fantastic book in so many ways. It works on so many different levels. It's a great, sprawling character study. It describes a time and a place with what seems like honesty. Even though the characters feel real and are vested with human, interior problems, they also act as stand-ins for larger concept: ineffective idealism, self-justifying capitalism and exploitation, lost innocence; somehow, despite its subject matter, it's funny. I could go on and on.

There is a scene where Farrell descr
Joyce Lagow
Third in Farrell s Empire trilogy, The Singapore Grip is also the worst , a term I emphasize is relative only within the trilogy (The Siege of Krishnapur and Troubles being the first two). Farrell examined the role of the British in their colonial empire and set them up for ridicule. He succeeded brilliantly with the first two, especially with Troubles, which is a masterpiece. However, there is a boundary line in satire; if you go too far over that line, the figures stop being objects of mockery ...more
Patrick McCoy
I had never heard of Irishman J.G. Farrell before coming across this book, The Singapore Grip. It seems that he achieved a lot in his short life (he died while swimming in 1979 at the age of 44). This is the third of his books based on the fall of the British colonial empire known as the —Empire Trilogy— that began with Troubles (Ireland) and the Booker prize-winning Siege of Krishnapur (India). This novel is an epic novel in scope starting in 1939 before Singapore falls to the Japanese. Farrrel ...more
Literary Review The
J.G. Farrell
The Singapore Grip

By Drew Calvert

"The Singapore Grip" was reviewed in The Literary Review
"Loss Control" Fall 2012

The Singapore Grip is the final installment of J.G. Farrell’s “Empire Trilogy,” which chronicles the spectacle of British colonialism over the course of two centuries, from Ireland to India to Southeast Asia. It is also one of the only Anglo-American works of fiction set primarily in the city in which I grew up. I discovered it over a decade ago on
Mike Harper
Two books, really.
The first half or so is a beautiful comedy about colonial, mercantile Singapore just before the fall. The characters are introduced, the stage is set, and aside from the sense of impending doom, life goes on as it has for 50 years. Walter and his horrible daughter Joan are characters you'll love to hate, but you won't know what to think about Matthew, the ineffectual dreamer.
Then come the Japanese, and the comedy pretty much ends. Matthew, the Major, Dupigny, Mr. Wu, Vera Chain
A more scathing indictment of British colonialism, or in fact any form of colonialism is hard to imagine. With humour Farrell unmasks the smug hypocrisy that blanketed acts of complete immorality. Yet the novel although overlong is no didactic creed,the author has the confidence to let the reader draw his own conclusions from a deft and very funny satire and social history.

Upon his fathers death a young idealist is summonsed to Singapore by the very very venal mr Blackett. As the young man stumb
A fitting end to the Empire trilogy, with Farrell digging deep into the consequences of economic colonialism. The devil is in the detail, but so is the richness that prevents Farrell's characters from becoming puppets or mouthpieces for the various ideologies that sustained and sought to undermine the stranglehold of western business in the imperial colonies of the east. I found much of the book moving, particularly the chapter in which Matthew is taken by the Vera to the dying house and forced ...more
Paul Blaney
I was greatly looking forward to this one, the final book of the Empire Trilogy and the only one I'd yet to read. There were all the typical Farrell strengths that make you wish he'd lived a longer, prolific life: the dialogue, the black humour, and especially the descriptions of the Singapore setting. I'd also heard that this was the most political of the trilogy, in the sense that the author's critique of the Empire and its capitalist underpinnings is at its most overt here.

Sadly, I have to sa
The reading of J.G. Farrell's trilogy: "Troubles," "Siege at Krishnapur" and "The Singapore Grip" has been one the greatest experiences of my nearly 58 years of bookworm life. Farrell's understanding of people and circumstances and his truly Dickensian story telling skills (I've not read a writer who lifts the veil on scenes in a way as reminiscent of Dickens and Farrell) are breathtaking.

I will miss the people I met in these books very much.

This is terrifically good so far. The only thing, and it may have put other readers off, causing lower stars than the book deserves, is that in the early part of the book - Part 1 there is a hell of a lot of explanation about the business interests of Walter Blackett.

Very long explanations of the political and socio-political situation in the past and in the late thirties (the time of the novel) and trading rubber and all the implications. It's probably best to treat those sections almost as no
Tom Wascoe
Historical fiction is my favorite genre so this is the kind of book I enjoy. Good tale about Singapore before it fell to Japan in WWII. Does an excellent job recreating Singapore as it existed then. I could touch it, feel it, smell it. Excellent story teller. At times a little too preachy on his view of the world through various characters but does well in chronicaling the excesses of the British Empire.
David Jacobson
If I had read this book in a vacuum, I think I would have given it four stars. It is, by no means uniquely, a darkly comedic war and its motivations told from the point of view of one prominent colonial trading family in pre-war Singapore. And, at times, the story really is "told", since the characters (especially Walter and Matthew) will from time to time break out of anything resembling realistic dialog and soliloquize on topics including the moral foundations of colonialism, the failures of t ...more
I loved J.G. Farrell's Troubkes. And he clearly specialized in writing about the British pre post-colonial moment. But I'm having trouble with the rampant racism in the book. I know it's a feature of the era and all but I feel like the lack of any fully articulated non-white perspectives in the book is damaging, in an otherwise well written thoughtful book ...
Found it a more well developed and mature novel compared to the critically acclaimed Siege of Krishnapur, perhaps since the geographical setting is much closer to heart. A better literary rendition of pre-war Singapore will be tough to come by. A masterpiece of historical fiction.
Caleb Guillotte
The final installment in Farrell's "Empire Trilogy" is just as engaging, funny, strange and tragic. Set during the impending Japanese invasion of Singapore during WWII, Farrell highlights how the different classes perceive the events washing over them.
My least favorite of the trilogy by far. Too much (boring) political philosophy being passed off (barely) as dialogue, and a little too much military strategy for my taste. Still, a gripping setting and the Farrell touches of humor aren't lacking.
An almost-masterpiece. Only problem: too long! Very intelligent and well researched. The title: a word play between the Engl. "grip" and the Fr. "grippe" (flu).
This book is a must-read if you want to learn about Singapore immediately before WWII.

The author is a brilliant (if caustic) cynic about colonialism. And since we all know what happened to Singapore as the Japanese advanced through the Pacific, his portrayal of the Brits ignoring all common sense is comic.

Given the sense of foreboding a reader is bound to feel, the twists and turns of the plot keep you riveted. I found the male characters to be better developed than the females, however.

I wish F
In early 1942 lessons at Raffles college were rudely interrupted by the sound of the Johore causeway, connecting Singapore island to the mainland, be demolished. 'What was that?' Asked a startled headmaster. 'That', said a talented young pupil, 'was the end of the British Empire'. The pupil was Lee Kuan Yew and the rest, as they say, is history.
J.G. Farrell brings his empire trilogy to an end with an account of the momentous events around the fall of Singapore, an event which clearly signalled t
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NYRB Classics: The Singapore Grip, by J.G. Farrell 3 7 Oct 30, 2013 07:28PM  
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James Gordon Farrell (25 January 1935 – 11 August 1979), known as J.G. Farrell, was a Liverpool-born novelist of Irish descent. Farrell gained prominence for his historical fiction, most notably his Empire Trilogy (Troubles, The Siege of Krishnapur and The Singapore Grip), dealing with the political and human consequences of British colonial rule. The Siege of Krishnapur won the 1973 Booker Prize. ...more
More about J.G. Farrell...

Other Books in the Series

Empire Trilogy (4 books)
  • Troubles (Empire Trilogy, #1)
  • The Siege of Krishnapur (Empire Trilogy, #2)
  • The Empire Trilogy: The Siege of Krishnapur, Troubles, and The Singapore Grip
The Siege of Krishnapur (Empire Trilogy, #2) Troubles (Empire Trilogy, #1) The Hill Station The Empire Trilogy: The Siege of Krishnapur, Troubles, and The Singapore Grip A Girl In The Head

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